Update #2 on FSM/TC Maysak and call for volunteers

When you have been away from the deployment for a while (because you have been asleep for example) you read back through the Skype chat window to see what was happening while you were out. This is a great thing to do because there is a regular list of new people joining the deployment, people returning and new things being found.

When you are actually working on collecting the data you can miss all this. It can be frustrating as you hunt around to find any more information on a possible construction company (like I did last night) and turn up nothing. It can feel like you are making very slow progress indeed.

But the great thing about the Standby Task Force is that you are not alone. You are part of a team. As a team we are making great progress. The picture we are building up of the affected states of FSM is really rich and useful and more information is pulled out every hour.

One of the great things about the team is the wide range of skills and perspectives. We have people who know the pacific islands well and people who have never travelled there. We have people who can transform polygons to shapefiles and back again and people (like me) who would not know one end of a polygon from another. We have people who have worked on many deployments over years and people joining their first deployments. And this diversity is our real strength. There is always someone who knows how to do the task you need doing. There is always someone who can take a fresh look at a something you are searching for. There is always someone who can help.

We asked Nick Brown from YPDR (he’s also a SBTF volunteer) to give us a sense of how your work will be used.

He said:

“The research work that the volunteers of the Standby Task Force have done is extremely impressive and humbling. With their skills and networks, they’ve been able to find information we would never have found without them.”

“The research and mapping work done by the Standby Task Force is invaluable to our team in the field who is focused on distributing aid where it is needed most. The work of Standby Task Force’s volunteers allows us to focus on getting the job done.”

“The volunteers of the Standby Task Force have found countless sources of hard to find information that we didn’t know existed. Their support is helping the team in the field be as efficient and effective as possible.”

Our deployment ends 22:00 UTC on June 26 2015. There is still plenty of work to do.

It’s a great deployment to join if you’re quite new to SBTF. We have a training room for new volunteers and a bunch of very helpful experienced volunteers here to help and support you.

Sign up for the deployment here

Any questions, contact Joyce or Ben from the core team.

joyce@standbytaskforce.com , ben@standbytaskforce.com or coreteam@standbytaskforce.com

Or just ask in the general Skype chat room.

Our deployment is complete

We have produced our final 3W reports. The data has gone to many, many humanitarian organisations and will be used to assist and accelerate the coordination of humanitarian groups on the ground.

We have processed an extraordinary range of data streams over the past 12 days. We have geolocated pictures and messages of needs and offers of assistance, we have provided maps and tables ourselves and we have supported other organisations and groups to streamline their processes.

We have worked closely with many other groups throughout this deployment, we have been involved in very specific individual stories and we have been involved in the global humanitarian response.

And now we must stop.

It is hard because we know that the people of Nepal remain in crisis. It will take years to rebuild the buildings, the livelihood, the economies of the country and as someone wrote to me today “It just feels like it is so little help.” It is hard but it is the right thing to do.

Twelve days ago information about the situation in Nepal was scarce. We, along with other groups, were able to rapidly and radically improve the intelligence about what was happening and where.

Now there are agencies on the ground. KLL is doing extraordinary work, online, from right there in Kathmandu. They are up and running. They are beginning to coordinate effectively and help is truly arriving.

The people on the ground now have better information than we have.

It is time for us to leave.

This is our mission.

We respond quickly and then we hand over to people on the ground.

We can be quick because we have so many volunteers around the globe, because we work online and coordinate online but we are only one part of the global humanitarian response, of the hundreds and hundreds of organisations responding to the plight of the Nepali people.

It is our mission (along with other digital humanitarians) to provide information early on in a disaster. Because it is where the biggest gap is. When the information is fuzzy and people are struggling to get a grasp on what is going on.

It is our mission because we are all volunteers and we must look after ourselves and our families around us. We cannot keep running this fast for very long.

It is our mission because we will be needed elsewhere. This is our third deployment in less than two months. Right now there is a red alert for a tropical cyclone in the Pacific and we pray it changes course before its predicted landfall.

Be proud.

This has been one of the largest deployments we have worked on. It has combined hundreds of people across the world. And we have achieved amazing things. Things that genuinely could not have been achieved by any other organisation in the world right now. Things that may help countless people in ways that they will never realise.

And we have been just one strand of a colossal mobilisation of people and skills and knowledge. Working together. For the people of Nepal. Our brothers and sisters.

But this mission, for Nepal, right now, must end.

But it was not small.

And you should be extraordinarily proud of what you have achieved.

Update #6 on our deployment for Nepal

A message we received from a friend


You are living abroad and when natural disaster such as earthquake hits your home, how do you feel? Helpless. That’s right! Helpless, more like you’re hands are tight and unable to help the affected people.


It was a Saturday morning here in US when I first heard the news. Then, I started calling my family members back home – got hold of few of them and came to know they are safe. But still, I was searching online to find more information.


Facebook has played a vital role in Nepal earthquake and I was searching through relief effort pages as what was done to help those victims.


Luckily, I found a link shared by Medha Sharma to volunteer digitally, so I sent her an email. By the day, I received an email and was added to the group called “Standby Task Force”.


At first, I was overwhelmed with the data and the conversations, but later I figured how it worked. Also, because of this group, I was able to help the people in need including my family members who took shelter in Bhaktapur by sharing information related to food, water and shelter.


Last but not the least, I would like to thank Standby Task force from the bottom of my heart. It is because of you and your vision that we are here to help. We have this opportunity to stay in touch with the wonderful volunteers and rescue team members on ground who work tirelessly to help the people in need.


Thank you!


Can you or, someone you know, help us verify reports from Nepal?

We are receiving a potentially overwhelming number of urgent requests. While in Nepal  responders have difficulty moving around. There have been occasions where a team has taken a full day to reach an area only to find other responders are already there.

This takes up time that they could be helping another village where no one has been.

We have our verification tool working now and we need to know what reports are still current.

Can you please look at the website. https://veri.ly/crisis/16 then send the link out to your friends, family and contacts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, anywhere you can think to share it. Please encourage them to share it too.


This would work well on Twitter

If you have up to date info about Nepal please visit http://goo.gl/3HJNgB Helps @SBTaskForce verify reports. Please RT #NepalQuakeRelief


This could work on Facebook

We are using the Verily tool to help check reports and request for help coming from Nepal.

If you have up to date info on the situation in any part of Nepal. Please keep an eye on it and see if you can help verify reports.


Please share this with your friends on Facebook.


Or share the update from our Facebook page




For more information on Verily, visit the About Verily page.


Update #5 | Nepal earthquake deployment | Extended until May 6

A short, sharp update

We have received 424 applications to join the Standby Task Force since the earthquake hit. We (Joyce in fact) have been processing these as quickly as possible. It’s a really incredible number. Thank you so much.

The MicroMappers platform is still (at time of writing) running well and feeding data to our main document and to the Kathmandu Living Labs crisis map http://www.kathmandulivinglabs.org/earthquake/

That crisis map is a great resource and we are proud to be working alongside KLL during this deployment. Read their sitreps here http://kathmandulivinglabs.org/blog/

Micromappers also feeds the MicroMappers maps

http://maps.micromappers.org/2015/nepal/images/ & http://maps.micromappers.org/2015/nepal/tweets/

Thanks so much to the many SBTF volunteers who have been clicking and geoclicking. There have been 220,000 clicks on images and 55,000 clicks on text messages. Thanks to QCRI for the awesome platform.

Our data is feeding the Humanitarian Data Exchange and our 3W data will be used as part of UN-OCHA’s first 3W report soon.

We need more help. Sign up now.

The deployment continues to go well. We have many volunteers working incredibly hard. We need everyone to take care of themselves and for this reason we really need people to keep joining the deployment. You can take the load off your fellow volunteers. It is not too late. In fact it’s just as important now as it was on Saturday.

This deployment has been extended to 2200 UTC May 6 2015

There are so many other great things I’d like to tell you about. Volunteers who are improving processes for everyone. People who have brought their specialist knowledge, skills or common sense to bear. Countless individual stories of greatness.

Standby Task Force is an incredible thing. It is incredible because it is you, all of you.

Without you Standby Task Force would be nothing.

With you it is everything.

Thank you

Small successes in Nepal

Much of the work of the Standby Task Force is, rightly, in the background supporting the overall response. We collate data and produce maps.

We do also get involved in more specific human stories though.

Locating trapped children

Last night we asked a few of our volunteers to find the geo location of some trapped children.

All we had was rough information. Volunteers found the location (the latitude and longitude) based on descriptions from people on the ground. We fed the location to  information to our friends working at VOST.

Within hours we received this message:

 The […] children have been reached – found temporary shelter and have received food and water! They can’t go home though, so will still need help to stay healthy and find permanent shelter, but safe for now. Thanks SBTF volunteers for your help! Seeing more positive signs now the SAR have arrived and hoping for so many more miracles like this.

(We’ve redacted the location details for this public blog post)

Urgent request for medical assistance

We are working with Nepali volunteers some inside and some outside the country in a group we created with Luther Jeke and Medha Sharma.

They found an urgent request for medical assistance from a doctor asking for many specific items of medical equipment. Unfortunately it had the wrong details on it. They helped track down the correct details for the doctor. One of the volunteers telephoned him and had a conversation. Our friends at Humanity Road were able to match a supplier willing to donate all that was required. Supplies are now being arranged to fly into Nepal and be collected at the airport by the doctor!

Update #3 on Nepal earthquake deployment

This is a bit more of a personal update than we normally send out.

For much of today I couldn’t play an active role in the deployment. I was travelling across the UK and though I tried to keep in touch with what was happening via Skype I really couldn’t.

So when I dropped back in at the end of the day I was really, genuinely, blown away by the response. We have over 120 people on the deployment and have a long list of more people signed-up to join.

In fact so many people are working, we have had to do some work to make the tasks and the teams manageable so people don’t get lost in the chat room.

We are working alongside over 50 Nepali people currently outside the country who are using their knowledge and connections to build a better picture on the ground.

We are coordinating with many other partner organisations and receiving regular requests from different agencies to collect and process more data.

Soon we hope to be able to work with UAViators to analyse footage taken from UAVs.

People are working so hard, showing real passion, dedication and humanity.

When I checked in, at first, I felt really guilty that I hadn’t been able to help today.

I know that this is a very stressful and charged environment to work in. I could see how hard the volunteers, coordinators and other leads had been working.

Even though we are sitting at home, in our familiar surroundings, we can still really feel the pressure.

What we are doing is important. And it is amazing. We can take comfort from the fact that we are not alone, the people of Nepal are not alone and that in disasters people just like you from across the world will reach out to help human beings they will never meet.

But we must all also remember to take care of ourselves.

Know your limits. Worry about yourself as well as others. Take a break to play with your kids, to walk the dog or to listen to some music.

So I knew that I should not feel guilt. I should feel pride. And I really do. And you should too.

Update #2 on Nepal earthquake deployment

This is an update on the deployment for Nepal and a brief summary of the situation as we understand it on the ground.

The situation in Nepal at 1900 UTC April 25 2015

Nepal was hit by the worst earthquake in 80 years according to UN-OCHA.

The government of Nepal reports 30 out of 75 districts affected in the Western and Central Regions, including Kathmandu Valley districts. This includes mountain and hilly areas, disperse rural populations as well as some very densely populated districts and Nepal’s 2 largest cities – greater Kathmandu and Pokhara.

The government has requested search and rescue capacity; – medical teams, supplies and tenting for hospitals, and dead-body bags; – heavy equipment for rubble removal; – and helicopters for transport and access to blocked areas.

Current official estimates put the number of people killed as a result of the earthquake at 2,200 deaths and over 5,800 injured people.


The international community is responding.

Our deployment by the numbers

There are over 400 lines in our information management database

1.4 million tweets have been processed by AIDR (the artificial intelligence in disaster relief platform)

Volunteers, both from the Standby Task Force and from the MicroMappers list have clicked 51,000 images and 6,000 messages.

Volunteers from the Standby Task Force have been geolocating these onto these maps http://maps.micromappers.org/2015/nepal/images/ and http://maps.micromappers.org/2015/nepal/images/

It’s worth pointing out that we are only able to use AIDR and MicoMappers because of our awesome friends at QCRI who built them and make them available to us.

83 volunteers have joined the deployment. They are doing fantastic work but they need your help.

Our role

We activated the Standby Task Force as part of the humanitarian response at 1200 UTC on April 25 2015. Initially the deployment is expected to last until 2300 UTC Thursday April 30 2015 but this will be kept under review.

We have issued a news release about our deployment.

Update #1 on Nepal earthquake deployment

This is an update on the deployment for Nepal and a brief summary of the situation as we understand it on the ground.

The situation in Nepal at 2000 UTC April 25 2015

At 0611 UTC on April 25 a very large magnitude earthquake (reports differ on its precise measure) affected much of Nepal. Given the magnitude of the quake, the location and the make-up of the country the humanitarian impact is expected to be very significant.

Early estimates put the death toll well over 1,000 but in reality it will take much longer before the real impact is known.

Much more information is available in the Humanity Road sitrep http://humanityroad.org/apr25nepalquake/

Our role

We activated the Standby Task Force as part of the humanitarian response at 1200 UTC on April 25 2015. Initially the deployment is expected to last until 2300 UTC Tuesday April 28 2015 but this will be kept under review.

Amazingly rapid response

We have been running AIDR which has processed over 780,000 items that might have been relevant down to around 1,000. We are using the MicroMapper platform to help volunteers process the resulting items and the geoclickers platform to geolocate images and reports.

Already 150 rows of data have been added to our Information Management resource.

You have, once again, responded incredibly. We have 46 volunteers in the deployment right now but we need more.

For more information

If you are a humanitarian organisation who would like access to the information we are compiling please contact coreteam@standbytaskforce.com.

If you are a journalist who would like to know more about Standby Task Force please contact ben@standbytaskforce.com. You might also be interested in the news release on this deployment.

News release: Global volunteers prepare the way for international assistance to Nepal

Issued by Standby Task Force 2015 UTC April 25 2015. For immediate use.

Just hours after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal, a network of humanitarians are working together to support the international response.

With significant property damage and hundreds of people feared dead, rescue and relief organisations are preparing to send staff, supplies and other assistance to the country. To help them, volunteers from the Standby Task Force are working online to map reports of damage and requests for assistance that have been shared online.

The team is also collating resources that will be useful to responders as they begin work in Nepal. Their database already includes links to maps, details about which agencies are responding and even contact information for staff travelling to Nepal.

Jus Mackinnon is President of the Standby Task Force she explained:

“We have a network of over 1400 people across the world who undertake regular training and volunteer to respond rapidly when a serious crisis occurs. We can really make a difference on the ground by giving relief and rescue organisations a good idea of which areas are affected in what way. This helps them to target their efforts more effectively and get help to the people who need it as quickly as possible.”

“Some of what we do is good, old-fashioned information gathering just with computers. We do use some very cutting edge technology as well. In particular we have been running an artificial intelligence system developed by QCRI since the first reports of the earthquake appeared. This sifts social media reports and means that we only need to focus on reports that are directly relevant.”

“I’m so proud of this network. Our volunteers worked on two separate deployments last month for Vanuatu but that hasn’t stopped them stepping forward to help the people of Nepal.”

Standby Task Force volunteers are working, online, alongside other digital humanitarian groups including the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team and Humanity Road.

For media enquiries please contact

Ben Proctor, Media Lead, ben@standbytaskforce.com skype:likeaword (timezone UTC+1)


Jus MacKinnon, President,  justine@standbytaskforce.com skype:fidget01 (timezone UTC+1)


Joyce Monsees, Volunteer Coordinator, joyce@standbytaskforce.com skype:joycemonsees  (timezone UTC-7)